Celtic: Does Ange Postecoglou have just one season to get it right?

By Martin WattBBC Scotland
Ange Postecoglou has been busy implementing his methods in Celtic's pre-season
Ange Postecoglou has been busy implementing his methods in Celtic's pre-season

Projects, long-term planning and football that gets the purists purring are all very well. What matters most at Celtic, though, is winning.

If he didn't know that already, Ange Postecoglou is quickly finding out.

A frantic first game in charge for the Australian ended in a frustrating draw with Midtjylland in Champions League qualifying.

As Postecolgou gets to grips with the job as Celtic manager, does he have just one season to get it right in Glasgow?

Hampered by lack of signings

Having been the fall-back option when Celtic's protracted pursuit of Eddie Howe collapsed, Postecoglou has been racing against the clock right from the start.

Celtic had gone more than 15 weeks without a manager when the 55-year-old was appointed on 10 June. But it was 13 days later until he had completed quarantine and could arrive in Scotland to start work in earnest - four weeks before his first competitive fixture.

That game - against Midtjylland - has now come and again with the tie finely poised ahead of the second leg in Denmark.

Yet if fans were expecting a flurry of business to have been done by now, they will be sorely disappointed. Celtic are still without a director of football, while Postecoglou has so far not brought in any of his own coaches, instead working with John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan from the previous regime.

On the transfer front, just two players - 20-year-old defender Osaze Urhoghide and 19-year-old winger Liel Abada - have since been signed to bolster a threadbare squad, with a deal for Sheffield Wednesday's Liam Shaw to join up having been struck late last season. Swedish defender Carl Starfelt was signed the day after the Midtjylland first leg, with fellow centre-back Kristoffer Ajer leaving to join Brentford.

Defender Jack Hendry and striker Vakoun Bayo have also been sold, while the futures of key pair Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard remain in doubt with less than a year left on their contracts.

It may not be an ideal start for Postecoglou but that doesn't necessarily equate to being cut extra slack by an expectant support.

Former Scotland midfielder Michael Stewart sympathises with the situation the manager finds himself in as he bids to make an immediate impact in his first job in European football.

"The way this has come about, Postecoglou coming in months after Neil Lennon left, definitely adds pressure to the need to see something happening quickly," says Stewart.

"The need to bring players in is an important part of that. But they've done it all so late in the day that it makes it difficult to identify and recruit.

"They need a lot more signings - when is that going to happen? I get the distinct impression they are chasing their tail. It could be late in the window before players come in and that makes things even more difficult."

Australian faces 'real learning curve'

Postecoglou has been hired as Celtic attempt to reassert the domestic dominance wrested from them last season.

The priority, as always, is the title, with Rangers having scuppered Celtic's bid for the historic 10 in a row.

It was no close-run thing - Celtic finished a hefty 25 points adrift - and a similar margin is unthinkable if the former Australia manager is to be more than a fleeting appointment. But is second place, by any deficit, acceptable?

Celtic also lost their grip on the League Cup and Scottish Cup to end the campaign without silverware for the first time since 2010. Regaining either of those would do Postecoglou's prospects no harm.

His side start the Scottish Premiership season with a tough fixture at Hearts on 31 July. Then, after home games with Dundee and St Mirren, there's an Old Firm derby at Ibrox. Nothing like easing yourself in to your new job.

Former Celtic defender Jim Duffy believes Postecoglou's eye-catching, attacking style of play will matter little if he doesn't get the early results to go with it.

"He's coming to Scotland, a different type of demand on him completely," says Duffy. "The style of play, the weather, the pitches, the passion, the fans. It's going to be a real learning curve for him."

What does history tell us?

Failing to win the title in your debut season as Celtic manager doesn't augur well for staying in the job.

Neil Lennon's initial stint - he was appointed on a permanent basis in 2010 - was the first time since Tommy Burns' tenure from 1994-97 that a Celtic boss remained in post after missing out on league glory in his first campaign.

Lennon's predecessor Tony Mowbray and John Barnes both failed to see out their debut campaign before being sacked. Dr Jozef Venglos ended his sole season empty-handed before moving to an advisory role with the club.

But when a Celtic manager does mark his first season with the title, it tends to provide a platform for further success. Brendan Rodgers, Ronny Deila, Gordon Strachan and Martin O'Neill all won a minimum of back-to-back league crowns, while Wim Jansen bowed out a champion after one year.

Lennon, last term, is the only manager in this period to have failed to retain the title after a triumphant first season.

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